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South Australia - The Eyre Peninsula
SA Tourism Commission South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is a strikingly triangular area, marked out by the Eyre Highway to the north and the Lincoln and Flinders highways running south to the Southern Ocean alongside Spencer Gulf and the Great Australian Bight. The angles of the shape are picked off by Whyalla in the east, Port Lincoln in the south and Ceduna in the west. Littered with sheltered coves and beaches safe for swimming and fishing, the coast of the Spencer Gulf is in sharp contrast to the buffeted and pounded coastline of the Great Australian Bight.
SA Tourism Commission To the north of the peninsula lie the granite Gawler Ranges, rising to nearly 500 metres at their highest (Nukey Bluff), and famous for the colour of their wild flowers in springtime. Explorer Edward Eyre first noted South Australia’s national flower Sturt’s desert pea here in 1839. South of the Eyre Highway, much of the naturally mallee scrub-covered plains are given over to sheep and wheat farming, and silos are a common sight in the interior. Iron ore mining has been important to the economy of the Eyre Peninsula since its discovery in the 1870s, and visitors to Iron Knob can get a sense of the vastness of the mining and steelmaking project if they drop into the mining museum there.
Iron ore was transported 50 kilometres by rail from Iron Knob to Whyalla, which developed as a port for transport of the ore to smelters at Port Pirie, across the Spencer Gulf. Originally named Hummock Hill by Matthew Flinders on his journey along southern Australia in 1802, the town was renamed Whyalla in 1914. Like many former heavy industrial centres, tourism has become a mainstay of the local economy, and Whyalla offers seaside swimming, fishing and windsurfing. The Whyalla Maritime Museum has on display the first ship built in the Whyalla shipyards, the Whyalla. Delving into the deeper past, a trip to Point Lowly, nearly 40 kilometres away, rewards with a view of the 1883 lighthouse against a backdrop of ocean.
SA Tourism Commission Along the east coast, the main townships are Arno Bay, Port Neill, Tumby Bay and, almost at the cape, Port Lincoln, all of which offer good beaches, fishing and recreational facilities. In the brilliant blue waters from Tumby Bay to past Port Lincoln lie the Sir Joseph Banks Group of islands, made into a conservation park in 1974. One of these, Dangerous Reef, is a major breeding site for Australian sea lions. Explorer cruises operate from Port Lincoln and Tumby Bay for people wishing to get close to the sea lions, or to simply explore the area.
Port Lincoln was considered as a site for the capital of South Australia, but was ruled out by city designer Colonel William Light because of concerns about water supply. The port nevertheless developed and is now the base for Australia’s largest tuna fishing fleet.
SA Tourism CommissionSet on protected Boston Bay — more than three times the size of Sydney Harbour — with gentle slopes rising behind, and Boston Island perched 5 kilometres out to sea and the 29,000-hectare Lincoln National Park to the south, Port Lincoln is indeed the Eyre Peninsula’s jewel. Forty kilometres or so west across the peninsula is the protected estuary area of Coffin Bay. Although on the ‘west’ of the peninsula, Coffin Bay township is protected from the battering Southern Ocean waves by Coffin Bay Peninsula to its south and west. That area has been declared a national park and visitors can, within a short distance, move from wild pounding seascapes to tranquil baywaters. Visitors can explore the Coffin Bay foreshore and its vegetation along the recently upgraded Oyster Walk, or hire a dinghy and take to the waterways.
Most of the settlements along the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula have grown up around similarly protected inlets — Elliston, Venus Bay, Streaky Bay and Ceduna. For the thrill of gazing over storm tossed surf and towering cliffs, visitors should stop at a lookout, such as Needle Eye at Venus Bay — where other nearby attractions are the Talia Caves, Murphy’s Haystacks (towering ancient inselbergs of weathered granite) and the Point Labatt sea lion colony. Streaky Bay, so named by Matthew Flinders because of the effect created by streaks of seaweed in the bay, is an alternative convenient stopover.
SA Tourism Commission Ceduna, although on the coast, serves as the gateway to the Nullarbor and has as much connotation with desert as with water. For dramatic images of wet and dry, visitors should follow the Eyre Highway then take one of the turn-offs to see the Nullarbor plunge to the ocean in a stark wall of rock.


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